Terror victims seek slice of sanctions pie

May 22, 2012 at 11:19 AM
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WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- Lawyers and lobbyists for terrorist victims are at odds trying to make sure their clients get a share of Iranian assets that remain frozen in a U.S. bank.

The office of Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said he has been working with plaintiff groups for months "to ensure that the approximately $2.5 billion in Iranian blocked assets located in New York are available," Roll Call reported Tuesday.

Representatives of victims of the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, have lobbied for wording in a Senate bill they said would help them and other victims gain access to the money in a New York bank. They maintain lawyers for another group of victims of a 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia could get priority access to the funds.

The language favors the Khobar Towers group because it includes punitive and compensatory damages, which "breaks the sharing agreements we've made with other families and breaks our promises we made with House Republicans," said Andy Cochran, a lobbyist for the Marine barracks plaintiffs.

A representative for the Khobar Towers victims said the Beirut group was seeking language that would retroactively change the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and claim the lion's share of the funds.

Late Monday, Cochran said, the sides struck a tentative deal to limit some of the damages and work on a compromise in conference committee.

A spokeswoman for Menendez, who authored section in question, said the senator had been working to ensure all victims would have access to the money.

Menendez "for months has been working with all of the plaintiff groups to ensure that the approximately $2.5 billion in Iranian blocked assets located in New York are available," Tricia Enright, Menendez's communications director, told Roll Call in an e-mail.

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